Nato and Russia are engulfed in the most severe conflict of interest in years as Washington and its European allies continue to make efforts to prevent Russian forces at the border from invading Ukraine.
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The latest developments on the crisis
French President Emmanuel Macron had a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Monday in a high-level diplomatic move to achieve a breakthrough between NATO and Kremlin. Kremlin had earlier said before the meeting that it doesn’t expect a major resolution.
Macron is scheduled to meet with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv.
On Monday, President Biden also had a meeting with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Washington to discuss the dire situation. Scholz who has been under fire for not making decisive moves to help deter Russia from invading Ukraine told the Washington Post in an interview that an invasion of Ukraine will elicit a ‘united and decisive response.
US intelligence report on Saturday painted a grim situation, saying that Russia may soon conclude their plans for what seems to be a massive invasion of Ukraine. US lawmakers and their European allies were informed of the latest assessment which claims Russia’s invasion could dismantle Ukraine’s government in two days, wound or kill up to 50,000 civilians and render more than 5 million Ukrainians homeless.
As tensions heighten, an increasing number of Ukrainians are packing emergency bags, mapping out escape routes, and engaging in self-defense and basic survival lessons. Everyone in Ukraine is aware that anything could happen so nobody’s taking chances.
The Russian perspective: Kremlin officials have cited the 2015 Minsk peace deal, which was meant to bring to an end the conflict between Kyiv and Moscow-backed separatists in the controversial Donbas region after Russia annexed Crimea. The Kremlin has accused Ukrainian officials of failing to fulfill their side of the bargain.
The Kremlin has also demanded assurances that Ukraine, formerly part of the Soviet Union never be allowed into the NATO military alliance.
On Dec. 17 the Kremlin issued an ultimatum to the United States, stating that Russia wanted confirmation that NATO would withdraw troops from countries that became part of the alliance after 1997.
The Ukrainian perspective: Officials in Kyiv have long expressed their dissatisfaction with the Minsk peace deal, which was arrived after a series of military defeats. They have said that they will honor the peace deal only if it is restructured.
According to Russia’s Interfax news agency, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said last week that Ukraine is willing to engage in talks with Russia in a third party country.
“Ukraine stands ready for negotiations in Istanbul, as well as in Geneva, Vienna or any other place that is impartial and doesn’t depend on one of the sides, namely Russia,” Reznikov said..
The Western perspective: The United States and other allies have expressed their support for the 2015 Minsk deal, but beckoned on all parties involved in the agreement — including Russia — to fulfill their side of the agreement.
However, the Biden administration does not honor Russia’s demands on NATO instead calls on Russia to retreat from the Ukrainian border and stop all of its support for the Donbas Separatists.
The military stance
Russian troops: The Kremlin started sending military troops to the borders of Ukraine last year. The intelligence report says there are now up to 100,000 Russian troops in the region and Crimea, the Ukrainian peninsula which Russia annexed in 2014 after a series of battles with Ukraine.
Last week, military drills were embarked on with Belarus, an ally that also borders Ukraine.
The Biden administration is of the opinion that Russia is planning to invade Ukraine especially after Moscow creates a pretext by broadcasting images of civilian casualties to generate fury against Kyiv. On the other hand, the British government says that Russia’s plan is to destabilize the government of Ukraine and install a pro-Russian one in its place.
The US latest investigation came to the conclusion that Russia has assembled up to 70% of the combat forces it would require to launch a massive offensive on Ukraine that would crumble Kyiv. If the full-scale invasion takes place, it would probably be the largest land attack in Europe since World War II.
NATO forces: The United States has sent more troops to Eastern Europe in response with up to 3,000 US forces relocating to NATO’s eastern flank in Romania from their current positions in Germany and Fort Bragg.
NATO allies are showing their support by sending military hardware. Denmark and Belgium have sent F-15 and F-16 fighter jets to the Baltics last month in support. Britain has pledged to send jets, warships, and military specialists to support the cause to protect Ukraine.
NATO allies have expressed that in the event of an invasion of Ukraine, they will not send troops. While Ukraine is at the center of the conflict between Russia and the West, it is not a member of NATO and is not covered by the alliance’s collective defensive mechanism.
What is Ukraine’s stance?
Amid the whole tension, Ukraine’s political leadership has greatly played down the risk of conflict, with Zelensky telling Ukrainians to “take a breath” and “calm down.”
However, some Ukrainian commanders have expressed deeper reactions to the situation. In February, Zelensky signed into law provisions that would strengthen the country’s armed forces, increasing them from 250,000 active forces to around 361,000 personnel. But this makes up only a third or so of Russia’s 900,000-strong armed forces.